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Daily Fantasy Baseball: Chalk Plays

May 9, 2020

If Mike Trout is facing the fifth starter for the Baltimore Orioles, then yes, he is likely going to be chalk.

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In season-long fantasy baseball, certain players will never leave your lineup except for injury or days off. Within your own fantasy league, your team’s best players are on your roster only and can only accumulate points for you individually.

In daily fantasy baseball, your opponents can roster the same players as you do. Therefore, the challenge is not only to accumulate the most points but to also do so in a unique way that allows your lineup to stand out from the rest. The obvious plays on a given slate are referred to as “chalk plays.”

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Defining Chalk Plays

A chalk play does not always have to be a player who is an obvious stud or someone that would never be benched in a season-long fantasy league. If Mike Trout is facing the fifth starter for the Baltimore Orioles, then yes, he is likely going to be chalk. However, studs are not always chalk, especially if they have a tough matchup.

A chalk play is any player that is expected to have a high ownership rate on a given slate. Ownership rates are affected by a variety of factors. Here are some of the reasons that players can be considered chalk for a set of games.

Favorable Matchup

Probably the most common cause for chalk plays, a favorable matchup can further solidify a stud as a must-play or can even make some budget options more appealing. Nailing your starting pitcher position is crucial in daily fantasy baseball, so a pitcher facing a weak lineup on the slate could become an obvious play that projects to have high ownership. Similarly, hitters that are facing a weak starting pitcher could see an ownership bump.

New Opportunity for Playing Time

The salary for players is adjusted often, depending on the playing time of the player as well as the player’s performance. However, sometimes injuries or unexpected lineup changes occur without the salaries being modified. Those within the daily fantasy baseball community are always quick to jump on a player with a low-salary who will receive an immediate opportunity boost, including a new position in the lineup. Be on the lookout for players freshly placed in the leadoff or cleanup spot.

The Importance of Ownership

Okay, so we now have some ideas of how to identify potential chalk plays, but why does it matter? At the most basic level, the goal of daily fantasy baseball is to score the most points. However, there are times when you want to be unique with your lineup construction and moments when here fading the obvious plays is a losing strategy.

It is not a requirement that you have the most unique lineup possible. However, you have to realize that any player you share with other lineups is essentially removed from the equation. Consider that you are playing in a H2H against one other player. If you both roster the same seven out of the nine total players in your lineup, then the contest is going to be determined by the other two players.

Chalk Play Strategy: Cash Games vs. GPPs

As discussed in our article on contest types, cash game contests pay all winners the same amount. In other words, there is no incentive to finish first in the contest compared to finishing just above the minimum cash line. Therefore, fading chalk plays is not necessary and is often not recommended in cash game contests. You should really only fade a chalk play in a cash game contest if you strongly believe that the player is not going to meet expectations. Rostering high ownership players in cash is not the worst thing, because you will not miss the bus if the player provides a hefty return of investment.

Remember, cash games are where you want to look for high-floor, safer players. In almost all circumstances, chalk plays are exactly this. There are likely several factors that are resulting in these players projected to be high ownership. Of course, there will be exceptions, but in cash games, it is a good idea to make sure you get the points from these players that most other entrants in the contest will be receiving.

On the other hand, GPPs require entrants to take more risks if they wish to reach the top of the leaderboard. Unlike cash game contests, GPPs see most of the prize pool allocated to the top finishers. Therefore, setting the goal of only making the money is not profitable long-term in GPPs. A unique roster construction should be your goal in these formats.

All that being said, there will still be situations where fading an obvious chalk play can come back to bite you in a GPP. Every slate is unique, and that is what makes daily fantasy baseball so much fun. In some cases, you will see the winner of a tournament featured a lineup with quite a few chalk plays and you’ll think to yourself “Why didn’t I just play those guys?”. However, plenty of times you’ll see the winning tournament lineup and have to Google some of the player names.

Final Thoughts

Be on the lookout for projected chalk plays for each slate that you are going to play. Be sure to check out our daily fantasy baseball lineup advice articles. Not only do these provide great recommended plays, but they could also help you identify players who are projected to have high ownership.

Remember, your goal in a cash game is simply to finish in the top half of players, to be in the money. You will receive the same payout, so there is no need to go for it all and try to finish in first place of a cash game contest. For this reason, it is generally unwise to fade a chalk play. Sure, if you are correct, then you will have a leg-up on the majority of entrants in the contest. However, taking such a risk is best reserved for tournaments, where you need to shoot for upside and field a unique lineup to reach the top of the leaderboard.

Best of luck in your daily fantasy baseball endeavors. Check out the rest of our general advice articles for daily fantasy baseball as well as articles pertaining to particular slates.

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Shane Bryant is a featured writer for FantasyPros. For more from Shane, check out his archive and follow him on Twitter @ShaneBryant31.

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